Reading adults make reading children, and reading children make reading adults.
In other words adults who read stand a greater chance of influencing children to cultivate the habit of reading.
This is because children are always in the company of adults and are amenable to learn all manner of behaviours from them.
In the same vein, children who cultivate the habit of reading at their developmental stages are likely to grow with the habit.
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At a time when it is realised that the culture of reading among both children and the adult population is dwindling, we cannot help but place part of the problem on the door steps of adults.
If it appears that children are reading less it means the adult population are doing less of reading.
Nature and nurture
Habit formation is born out of people observing and copying behaviours in their environment and children are very good at that.
Children largely learn through observation.
That is, they copy or imitate whatever is done in their environment.
Some of the things children learn in the environment span language acquisition, eating pattern or habit, way of dressing, way of speaking etc.
and children’s reading pattern cannot be an exception.
There has been an unending debate on the matter of nature and nurture (environment) regarding which of them influences the behaviour of a man.
Although this debate has not been conclusive, it is believed that both have impact on the behaviour of every human being.
What this suggests is that children’s behaviour in one way or the other is informed by what they learn in the environment.
The idea of the environment’s influence on children’s behaviour puts a great responsibility on the adult population with respect to how they influence the young ones.
The adult population refers to parents, guardians, teachers, relatives etc who by virtue of their staying with children cause them to influence the children in one way or the other.
Are you surprised that some families are associated with certain professions?
Is it by accident that some families are full of lawyers, musicians, teachers, accountants, footballers?
No! It is never an accident.
A majority of the lawyers, accountants, teachers, politicians were influenced by the professions of their parents and relatives, including influential people in their communities.
In the same vein, creating a lifelong reading habit among schoolchildren, which has become a subject of commanding interest in the educational milieu, can be realised when the adult population consciously makes the practice a habit.
In other words, the adult population must be seen reading.
That is, they must consciously and unconsciously get involved in the act of reading so that this whets the appetite of children.
Children copy what they see their parents do.
It is generally accepted that the home is the first port of call when it comes to what children learn.
There is also a belief that children start reading while in the womb.
This can only happen when the mother reads.
In effect, any defect regarding the reading habit of children could be traced to a poor reading habit of parents.
Teachers’ contribution to the reading habit of the children population cannot be quantified.
Aside from parents, teachers are the people most children spend most of their time with and it is natural that teachers would have huge impact on the behaviour of children.
In most cases teachers become the source of their authority when it comes to what is right and what is wrong.
It is natural that if teachers are found reading in class and speak to the children about reading in class, the children would cultivate the habit of reading.
There is a worrying trend of children not taking delight in reading and the earlier something was done about it the better.
A US study of young American readers which was reported by the guardian.com in 2015, shows a fall of nearly 10 per cent since 2010 of young readers doing so ‘for fun’.
Again, a 2015 report by the National Assessment Unit of the Ministry of Education on Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA) showed that by “the end of P2, the majority of public school pupils struggled with foundational reading skills and found it difficult to read with comprehension” in both the English and Local languages.
There are a number of factors attributable to this decline in reading such as the competing lure of social media, children playing games with the smart phone, lack of relevant books of interest, lack of teachers with relevant skills in teaching reading and all internet related issues that take attention.
Notwithstanding all these hurdles to a lifelong reading habit on the part of children, the adult population have a natural way of influencing children of today.
That is, influence by personal example.
The adult population ought to read and also read with their wards.
They also ought to invest in buying books for their reading and the reading of children.
This should be consciously done.
It is a way of teaching children, nonverbally, to invest in reading.
This example will make reading children become reading adults.
The importance of reading to the educational sector and the national economy cannot be overemphasised.
Reading is the bedrock of education and you could imagine the effect of the lack of it.
It requires parents, guardians and teachers to set personal examples.
You may not need to advise your children to read.
All you need to do is to read at home and also cultivate a habit of reading with them.
The adult’s work or profession should not be a stumbling block to realising the dreams of today’s children.
The reading habit of today’s children is a product of the reading habit of today’s adult population.
Remember: “The child is father of the man.”
The writer is the Literacy Promotion Manager of Ghana Book Development Council (GBDC)